For Celtics fans frustrated that team president Danny Ainge has not done something, anything, in the last few weeks—or at last year’s NBA trade deadline, for that matter—to bolster a young team that is going badly awry, there may be some hope.
On Monday, in an interview with the Boston Globe, Ainge not only took the blame but conceded that it just might be time for the Celtics to make a change through a trade.
“Just changing faces doesn’t always change things,” Ainge told the paper, “but it may have to come to that.”
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Indeed, the Celtics have lost four of their last five games and are 5-10 in their last 15. Sunday’s loss to the lowly Wizards—in which the Celtics scored the first basket, then never held the lead again, trailing by as many as 25 points—certainly felt like a rock-bottom loss. One can only hope.
Something needs to change within the Celtics, and while Ainge appeared to hold out hope that such a change can come from within, his acknowledgment that a trade might be the better way should be cause for relief around the team.
The Celtics still have a $28.5 million trade exception from the Gordon Hayward deal that can be used to absorb a player without matching salaries. Because of luxury-tax rules, the Celtics can only use about $19.5 million of that.
Danny Ainge Takes Blame for Celtics’ Woes
Just as significant in the Globe interview is the notion that Ainge is taking the blame for the way the team has performed—13-13 through 26 games. Even with the injuries and COVID-19 protocols the team has had to endure, the Celtics have just been a flat team for most of the year.
While Ainge appears to have hit in the NBA draft with the selection of solid reserve guard Payton Pritchard, his lottery pick from last November—Aaron Nesmith—has thus far been a shooter who can’t shoot (30.3% from the 3-point arc).
And both of Ainge’s veteran free-agent signings, center Tristan Thompson and guard Jeff Teague—are having the worst seasons of their careers. Teague is averaging 5.5 points on 32.8% shooting while Thompson is averaging 6.6 points and 8.2 rebounds, and was yanked from the starting five three games ago.
“We’re not playing with the passion that we need,” Ainge said. “I think that’s on the players. And the players on the team are on me. There are things I could have done better, but I’m not going to mention names. I’ll take this responsibility. This is a team that was put together by me, and we’re not playing with enough consistency and urgency, and it’s my job to look to see what we can do to improve the team, but that’s always much harder than improving from within.”
‘Not a Time to Panic’
Still, if you were hoping that Ainge’s willingness to accept blame and to acknowledge the need for change as a sign that a trade is imminent, take a deep breath. The trade deadline is March 25 and Ainge is never one to pull the trigger on a deal too soon.
“It’s definitely not a time to panic,” cautioned Ainge. “But it’s always a time to reflect. My job is to reflect after every game on where we stand and where our team is and how much better they can get. I know our team is better than how they are playing, and I’m confident they will play better.”